The food you eat has a significant impact on your physical and mental health and sense of well-being, and the best foods for addiction recovery are those that make you feel strong, healthy and satisfied while providing your body with the nutrients it needs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that a healthy diet improves your mood and reduces stress levels and cravings, while a poor diet increases your risk of relapse.1
How Addiction Affects Nutrition
Addiction has far-reaching effects on your nutrition. Addiction usually involves an unhealthy lifestyle that includes poor eating habits that can lead to nutritional deficiencies. An unhealthy diet affects your overall health, decreasing immunity, damaging vital organs and increasing your risk of chronic health problems like metabolic syndrome, diabetes and hypertension.
A major focus in early recovery is restoring your health, and the best way to do that is to eat healthy foods for addiction recovery.
The Best Foods for Addiction Recovery Are Whole Foods
Processed and packaged foods, which have a lot of added sugar, sodium and chemicals, should be kept to a minimum in your diet. The more whole foods your diet includes, the better your overall health will be. Whole foods are those which haven’t been overly processed and include beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables and fresh meats.
Foods to Improve Your Mood
Maintaining good mental health is essential in early recovery. Anxiety, depression, anger and frustration can quickly lead to a slip-up. A number of foods for addiction recovery have been shown to positively impact your mood.
Complex carbohydrates help produce serotonin, another mood-enhancing brain chemical that helps keep your mood happy and stable. Complex carbohydrates include:
- Long-grain brown rice
- Skin-on potatoes
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that’s synthesized into serotonin in the brain by vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid. Tryptophan is found in:
- Sweet potatoes
To get the folic acid you need, eat:
- Pinto beans
Vitamin B6 is found in:
- Sunflower seeds
Vitamin B12 is found in:
- Smoked salmon
- Red meat
Foods to Relieve Stress
Stress relief is crucial in early recovery, and some of the best foods for addiction recovery will help your body better respond to stress.
Vitamin C reduces your blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reduces blood pressure. Vitamin C and is found in spades in:
- Yellow peppers
A daily nibble of dark chocolate helps to reduce stress at the molecular level, according to UCLA’s Center for East-West Medicine.2 An amino acid known as L-Theanine also relieves stress by increasing alpha brain waves for feelings of relaxation. Green tea contains high levels of L-Theanine.
Foods to Reduce Cravings
Cravings are typically triggered by a low mood and low energy. Low blood sugar, excessive caffeine, dehydration and an unbalanced diet can trigger cravings or make your cravings worse.
Eat whole foods that keep your blood sugar stable, including:
- Whole-grain breads, which reduce cravings for sugar that may occur when you stop drinking alcohol or using some drugs
- Uncooked spinach, which contains L-gluatamine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety and eases cravings
- Peanut butter, which provides dietary fiber and promotes dopamine production to improve your mood
- Salmon, which contains vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve brain function and reduce the intensity of cravings
Eat for Recovery
Healthy foods for addiction recovery are those that provide your body with essential vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients. They don’t have a lot of added sugar, sodium or chemicals such as artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. In addition to eating mostly whole foods, be sure to drink plenty of water to stay adequately hydrated, which can also go a long way toward reducing cravings.